Reviewed by Regi Su
Photo credits to Alan Roy
From May 1st until May 9th, Chatswood Musical Society presents ‘Into the Woods' at the Zenith Theatre. I was thoroughly impressed with this production of Sondheim's hit musical.
The stars of the show were the cast. Everyone, from leads to minor leads and chorus, was electric and convincing, as they performed Sondheim's intricate lyrics with great talent and skill. Storytelling through musical song is no mean feat, but the entire cast carried the production with such passion and emotion, it was difficult not to get swept away in the energy and melodrama of the show. The cast themselves are well-seasoned and of high calibre, with many of them having graduated from NIDA, the Conservatorium of Music, Actors Centre Australia and Opera Australia (to name a few accolades). They were electric on stage and added great warmth and humour to an already fantastical show.
The production team should be congratulated. As amateur theatre works to a very tight budget, I was particularly in admiration of the props and how cleverly creative they were, which added to the entertainment value of the production. With limited space, this musical had seamless scene changes and the stagehands seemed to work together as a machine. Relying on lighting to distinguish scene tableaux, there was an excellent use of props that elicited a sense of creativity and imagination- a horse and carriage was imagined with two parasols and a hobbyhorse.
The Zenith in Chatswood is an excellent venue. A professional arena for good quality actors. I was particularly impressed by the quality of the sound system. Too many times have I seen theatre where the orchestra overpowers the dialogue, or the equalising and levelling needed to be adjusted. Not this venue. The sound was perfect and although the musicians were out of sight for the performers, there was great (technological) communication between the conductor and the actors. I stress these elements because amateur theatre has a tough battle with sourcing high quality equipment, but this production really showed off the Zenith in a good light. What a fantastic venue for future musical productions.
It was a pleasure to see a well-polished production of this recent hit ‘Into The Woods'. The CMS added unique elements of humour with Mary Bentley as the cow Milky White and slapstick through the acting, such as Chapin Ayres' performance of the Witch. I recommend this as a family production and a great night out.